An excuse to travel should never really be needed. Call of the open road, new experiences, broadening of worldview and all that.
However, it never hurts when something new and exciting and/or exceedingly rare pops up and stirs the voice inside one’s head that says “well damn, how could I possibly miss this?”
Below, our 2019 calendar of just that: 16 of the year’s best events, openings and other assorted global goings on that, once done, shall not reappear for some time, if ever.
From solar eclipses to digitized castles, the streets of New Orleans to the rainforests of Cambodia, the year’s got a little something for just about anyone looking for a reason to tick something off the ol’ bucket list.
Even if you never knew it was on there in the first place.
Via Shinta Mani / Facebook
Shinta Mani Wild
Where: Cardamom National Park, Cambodia
True, legendary gonzo hotelier Bill Bensley’s newest project did technically open in the waning hours of 2018, but this year will be your first opportunity to visit the four-acre luxury camp, which is set along 1.5km of jaw-dropping river and waterfalls in a newly protected wildlife sanctuary between two of Cambodia’s biggest national parks. Think handsomely appointed digs, ranger-led excursions to check out the local flora and fauna, and relaxing drinks to close each day at the “Landing Zone Bar,” perched just above the sanctuary’s largest waterfall.
When to go: December to April tend to be the warmest and driest months for exploring Cambodia’s lush rainforest.
WSL Big Wave Tour Mavericks Challenge
Where: Half Moon Bay, CA
Last held in 2016 (and only 10 times total since its inception in 1999), Mavericks’ who’s-got-the-biggest-cojones surf contest is a tricky gambit: for the event to be possible, Mother Nature must provide the towering walls of water on which surfers will risk life and limb. But with new support from the World Surf League, a first-ever field of women entering the fray and promising early swells, things are looking good for a 2019 return. And even if you don’t catch the contest itself, the season’s massive northwesterly groundswells hammering the coastline will no doubt provide some spectacular photos and a chance to check out some of California’s most gorgeous scenery.
When to go: The official competition window runs through March 31st.
Image via Bernard Dupont / Flicker
Hacienda Chukum Cenote
Where: Valladolid, Mexico
The Yucatán Peninsula is known for cenotes, those swimmable sinkholes filled with impossibly blue water. So even though Hacienda Chukum is a brand new oasis opening this January, what makes it special? Try rappelling, zip-lining and diving, courtesy of Aventuras Mayas.
When to go: Rainy season is generally May to November, and you probably don't want to swim in a sinkhole during a hurricane, so sometime before late April is best.
Image via teamLab
Digitized Hiroshima Castle
Where: Hiroshima, Japan
To mark the 400th anniversary of the Asano samurai clan taking charge of Hiroshima Castle, the art collective teamLab will turn the palace into interactive art from February 8th to April 7th. Expect digital calligraphy on the walls, illuminated trees throughout the grounds and a sea of interconnected … egg lights?
When to go: Feb. 8th-April 7th
Image via Unsplash
Grand Canyon Centennial
Where: Grand Canyon National Park
On February 26th, the Grand Canyon is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a designated National Park and will be holding special events all year to commemorate it. So this spring or fall (we don’t recommend Arizona during the summer), consider a trip to one of our country’s most breathtaking locales for great hiking and some good old-fashioned sightseeing. (Unless, of course the government is still shut down and the entire Grand Canyon becomes filled to the brim with garbage.)
When to go: See above, keep an eye on the news.
Image via Jazz Fest
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Where: New Orleans, LA
“Jazz Fest,” as it’s commonly referred to, celebrates its 50-year anniversary this year, which means, among other things, a bonus extra day to enjoy the colorful bacchanal of music, food, culture, and booze in The Big Easy. Additionally, spring will see the long-awaited opening of Sazerac House, a five-story interactive exhibit paying homage to the city’s iconic cocktail (and cocktail culture in general), complete with virtual bartenders helping visitors make their own drinks.
When to go: April 25th-May 5th
Rendering via Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours
Scenic Eclipse Ocean Cruises
We’re not into floating malls, so consider this soon-to-launch luxury sea cruiser your grown-up alternative (they call it a “six-star” experience). Only 200 or so passengers are on-board during your global adventures (we’d recommend the Arctic and Antarctic excursions), giving the ship a near 1:1 guest-to-staff ratio. Besides the usual cruise perks (spas, pools, daily entertainment), there are optional helicopter and submarine-based adventures.
When to go: Launches April 13th
Image via the International Cricket Council
Cricket World Cup
Where: England and Wales
Ok, you got us. We don’t really know sh*t about Cricket. But we do know that despite its reputation as a “gentleman’s game,” it’s actually violent as all hell. And we know that it inspires some of the most passionate fandom in all of sports, with local and regional rivalries becoming extremely heated (see: the most excellent tradition of “sledging”). And we know that the England and Wales have, shall we say … motivated sports fans, so this seems like as good an opportunity as any to dive in headlong and see firsthand what it’s all about.
When to go: May 30th-July 14th
Image via Benjamin Davies / Unsplash
Yankees vs. Red Sox London Series
Where: Er, London
Major League Baseball has played games in Mexico. Tokyo. The Sydney Cricket Ground. But the diamond has somehow never made its way to Europe. That all changes this June, as the Yankees take on the Red Sox in London Stadium (host stadium of the 2012 Olympics). Judge, Mookie, thousands of beer-happy fans trying to figure out what an inning means … this is can’t miss. The Queen better bring her heater on the first pitch.
When to go: June 29th-30th
Image via GoChile
Total Solar Eclipse
Where: Elqui Valley, Chile
Far from the light pollution of major cities, Chile’s Elqui Valley has long been a popular destination for stargazers — the valley’s 65-mile Ruta de las Estrellas, or “route of stars” boasts a dozen observatories along its length. Which makes it arguably the perfect place to lie within the path of totality (the swath in which the moon will completely obscure the sun) for this year’s full solar eclipse. Come for the celestial ogling, stay for some of Chile’s best wine, native to the region.
When to go: July 2nd marks the eclipse itself, though a stay afterward will net stunning views of the Milky Way with fewer crowds.
Image via Fête des Vignerons / Facebook
Fête des Vignerons
Where: Vevey, Switzerland
More a pageant than a wine tasting, the three-week Swiss Winegrowers’ Festival is a colorfully themed bacchanal near the French Alps. Expect lots of singing, costumes, shows loosely based around the tradition of winemaking and tastings galore. Started in 1787, the Fete takes years to organize and only occurs once per “generation,” or ever 14-28 years.
When to go: July 18th-Aug. 11th
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary
Where: Bethel, NY and an undisclosed location
Not one but two separate weekend festivals are set to commemorate the mother of all music festivals, which descended on sleepy Bethel, New York 50 summers ago this year. The first is the Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival, which will take place at the site of the original shindig and feature “TED-style talks and special exhibits” in addition to a full slate of music acts. The Who, Bon Jovi, Phish, Pearl Jam, Elton John and the Foo Fighters have all been touted as headliners. The second, “official” festival — at a to-be announced location — will be produced by Michael Lang, co-creator of Woodstock ‘69, who has stated that Bethel Woods doesn’t have the capacity for the type of event he envisions. Carlos Santana has stated he’ll be there if invited. Let’s hope that both festivals avoid the type of notoriety that plagued the festival’s last official resurrection.
When to go: Aug. 16th-18th
Concept art via Disney
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge
Where: Anaheim, CA
Star Wars’ first Disney theme park looks well worth the effort in dodging over-sugared tots and local Comic Book Guys. Opening in Disneyland (that’s the Anaheim one, reminder) this summer, “Galaxy’s Edge” lets you battle imperial walkers, discover a new planet called Batuu and even — deep, dorky breath — pilot the freaking Millennium Falcon.
When to go: No official opening date just yet, but it’s Disneyland — let’s call summer a safe bet.
Image via Bruce Munro / Facebook
Field of Light Uluru
Where: Uluru, Australia
Originally conceived in 1992 when the artist, Bruce Munro, first visited Uluru, Field of Light is a sprawling light installation that slowly changes colors throughout the night. After touring the world for the better part of a decade, the exhibit finally arrived at its intended location — the foot of Uluru, in Australia's Northern Territory — in 2016. It was due to end in March 2018, but its tenure has been extended through December 2020 ... which means you've got two more years to get down there and view it.
When: August and September are probably the most pleasant months for visiting Australia's dry, hot interior. Expect temps of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, dropping to around 50 at night.
Image via Bruce Munro / Facebook
Rugby World Cup
As a teenager, your correspondent found himself in South Africa during the 1995 Rugby World Cup (yes, the one immortalized in that movie with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon), and I can state without hesitation that it was one of the rowdiest sporting environments I have ever been privy to. And I’ve been to an actual World Cup. In Germany. And while Japan may not seem the most natural setting for global scrumlords to congregate, a little digging shows that they’ve got the fourth largest population of rugby union players in the world and a team ranked 11th worldwide. So expect the Sapporo to flow freely and flag face paint galore.
When to go: Sept. 20th - Nov. 2nd
InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland
Where: Sheshan Mountain Range, China
Now just taking reservations, this luxury hotel just outside of Shanghai was built into the side of a vast, waterfall-laden quarry, with sixteen floors “underground” and two within an underground aquarium. You can bungee jump, climb rock or make use of a 24/7 private butler.
When to go: Bookings are open, but waiting until fall means you’ll a) be out of tourist/rainy season, and b) give them some time to work out the opening kinks.
Main image via Bruce Munro / Facebook